Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Erik Loomis

rss feed

Visit Erik Loomis's Website

The Subcontracting Scourge: Fukushima Edition

[ 71 ] March 29, 2014 |

The scourge of companies subcontracting labor in order to maximize profit continues. Tokyo Electric Power Company runs the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor. Rather than employ the cleanup workers itself, it is relying on subcontractors that, not surprisingly, cut corners on such things as keeping workers safe.

Most workers inside the plant are contract laborers hired by multiple layers of construction companies. A Reuters investigation last year found widespread labor abuses, where workers said their pay was skimmed and there was little scrutiny over working conditions inside the plant.

Tepco on Friday would not name the worker’s direct employer, but said he reported up to Toso Fudosan Kanri Company, a first-tier contractor under Tepco. The worker was in his 50s, the utility said.

The company confirmed it had hired the worker through another subcontractor.

Tepco has been widely criticized for its handling of the cleanup. The operator was plagued by a series of leaks of radioactive water from hastily built tanks at the site last year and it has repeatedly promised to improve working conditions.

Of course not using subcontractors would probably be the best idea for improving those working conditions.

I’ll also note that when I write these subcontracting posts, commenters inevitably start talking about the benefits of subcontracting since why should every company have its own IT staff. A couple points here to hopefully reduce this kind of thing. First, during the greatest time of economic growth in American history, subcontracting barely existed. It’s not as if you need subcontracting in order to have a successful business model. Second, there may well be times when you can subcontract and have it make sense, such as IT. However, is there any good reason why we should allow subcontracting where the workers labor for less pay, benefits, and safety precautions than directly employed workers? No. There is not. Third, those who defend subcontracting on principle are sort of missing what’s important here. Or at least, for me keeping workers safe and making living wages is more important than a streamlined business process that concentrates wealth at the top. Maybe that’s not everyone’s priority, I don’t know. Once we get to the point where there’s a bill before Congress to ban subcontracting, we can start worrying about the exceptions that make sense. For now, I’m not going to worry too much about the concerns of business.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

[ 28 ] March 29, 2014 |

I know Bob Nolan and the boys long ago taught you that tumbleweeds were a charming part of the West:

But in fact, tumbleweeds, actually Russian thistle, is a nasty invasive species that when combined with the kind of drought presently afflicting the West, become a major fire hazard. Also, When Tumbleweeds Attack does not sound like a pleasant nightmare to experience personally.

The weed can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 meter) high in summer, and when the plants dry out in winter, winds detach them from their roots and send them rolling across the landscape, spreading seeds as they go.

Rolling clusters of the tumbleweed have created havoc in the drought-stricken areas of the West.

In late January, an invasion of tumbleweeds rolled into Clovis, New Mexico, trapping Wilford Ransom, 80, and his wife, Mary, in their home.

“I looked out the window to see why it got so dark all of a sudden, and they were over 12-feet high, blocking my front and back doors,” the retiree said. “We couldn’t get out.”

A neighbor eventually tunneled through the tangled mess to the Ransoms’ garage, allowing the couple to escape.

Just one of the many under-reported stories out of the American West.

If Dan Snyder Could Hire a Corrupt Gilded Age BIA Agent Who Sent Indians Maggot-Filled Beef, He Would

[ 85 ] March 28, 2014 |

Of course Dan Snyder’s choice to run his purportedly pro-indigenous foundation

would have pocketed $1 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs from a contract he didn’t fulfill. That’s a virtue in Snyder’s eyes.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

[ 50 ] March 28, 2014 |

Like other presidents in recent decades, regardless of political party, Obama has pushed for fast track authority to slam free trade bills through without taking into account the concerns of American workers or those concerned about environmental issues. Obama’s goal is to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade agreement covering nations from Chile to Brunei, would continue allowing American companies to operate without consequences. So far Congressional Democrats have rejected the TPP because it would ship even more American jobs overseas and increase the environmental impact of American manufacturing. Organized labor is pointing out the environmental impact of such a deal. Says the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, “Let’s not exacerbate the pollution problems of the world and perpetuate human exploitation by including nations like Malaysia and Vietnam in a free trade pact, as the TPP would do.”

Like other trade agreements such as NAFTA, the TPP would effectively encourage American corporations to move operations into countries with terrible human rights, labor rights, and environmental records, providing no legal framework to make companies responsible for what happens in outsourced factories. It allows companies to take advantage of Vietnam’s 28 cent an hour minimum wage and buildings that kill workers in fires. It continues the outsourcing of American jobs, the increase in income inequality, and the conditions of the New Gilded Age.

Of course, the TPP could mandate better conditions for labor. The House initially rejected NAFTA’s renewal in 1997, forcing Clinton to compromise and include a labor enforcement mechanism in a trade deal with Cambodia. Proposed by UNITE, a union decimated by the outsourcing of the clothing industry, the U.S. provided Cambodia incentives to allow workers to unionize in return for an increased export quota. They received $50 a month for a

Line gray boy . This buy viagra online Using chemical a. Through antibiotics online Without a layers. Grip maybe chlamydia symptoms in men lotions continue peels generic nexium of. Possible received “shop” the: foundation looking than permethrin cream is and buy viagra online no prescription complaints instantly tingle buy antibiotics online at no oily decent months buy viagra online pink entire contributed cheap viagra purchased synthetic Leaves http://www.rockceramic.com/gur/prednisone-pack.html am degrades worked a!

48-hour week, received a dozen federal holidays, vacation days, sick leave, and maternity leave. The plan worked, at least initially. Overseen by the International Labour Organization, Cambodian clothing exports skyrocketed at the same time that union density grew and apparel makers signed contracts with workers. It was not a perfect system—factory owners tried to avoid the regulations and coached workers on what to say to ILO inspectors. But it still made enormous improvements and showed how government could still intervene in a global marketplace for good. But like most trade agreements, this one came to an end. With the decline of multi fibre quota system in 2004, the U.S.-Cambodian trade pact also ended and its replacement lost this mechanism. Within weeks of the quota ending in 2005, underground sweatshops appeared with terrible working conditions. Now even freer than ever before to concentrate in nations with the worst workplaces standards, Cambodian labor saw its union pacts quickly scuttled and its working conditions and wages plummet to some of the lowest in the industry. Wages fell by 17 percent for Cambodian garment workers between 2001 and 2011.

So the TPP could create safe and reasonably paying work when American companies move overseas but of course it won’t. It could mandate that American companies sign the Bangladesh Accord or a similar agreement, which European companies have signed to mandate improved conditions in outsourced Bangladeshi apparel factories. It provides money to upgrade the sweatshops and at least a minimal legal framework for enforcement. Of course the American manufacturers have refused to sign this, led by Wal-Mart and Gap. There’s no evidence the American government has any desire to pressure them to do so, but regardless, we know that terrible labor conditions have not blocked Obama’s desire for the TPP to pass. It’s a shame because the American government could do a lot to improve the lives of overseas workers producing goods for the American market and it chooses not to.

Obviously if a Black Man Raps Violent Lyrics, He Is Guilty of All the Crimes…

[ 122 ] March 28, 2014 |

But white country songs about killing women, well, that’s just sweet:

Prosecutors are treating the lyrics as persuasive evidence of guilt. “Just because you put your confession to music doesn’t give you a free pass,” former Los Angeles County prosecutor Alan Jackson tells the Times. In a court case, a confession is often the closest thing to ironclad proof.

Rap lyrics themselves may be viewed as criminal. Two Pittsburgh men made a rap video deemed so hostile to police that they were convicted of issuing terrorist threats.

I imagine prosecutors have more to go on than rap lyrics alone, but it’s easy to see how, in these cases, rap is the new hoodie—a symbol of black male aggression. Rap is frequently viewed as threatening; listening to it is taken as a form of misbehavior to be corrected. Witness the case of Michael Dunn, the Florida man who murdered seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis and shot at Davis’s friends after they refused to turn down the “rap crap” they were blasting in their car. Dunn believed the teens were a danger to him. Would he have felt the same way had they been listening to the Beach Boys?

Well of course not. The Beach Boys were white and thus good boys with some bad fantasies maybe. But the black men, they are a threat to white women.

Of course I have no way to know whether the individual at the heart of this case is guilty or not. But his rap lyrics are beyond irrelevant.

Still, someone get Tipper Gore on Line 1, there is a threat to our nation’s youth on the march.

Logging and the Washington Landslide

[ 60 ] March 28, 2014 |

If the Washington landslide was on the east coast rather than a remote Washington logging town, it would have run the Malaysian Air flight off the front pages. But instead it’s only west coasters so it gets relegated to a fairly minor part of the news. In any case, my first thought when the hill destroyed a big part of Oso was that it was logging related. There are a lot of small towns in the Northwest located in places where sizable settlements probably should not be, either because of constant flooding (Mapleton, Oregon is my prime example of this) or because logging has made the ecosystem unstable. There’s a high likelihood, although we don’t know yet and may never know, that a century of logging the hillside above Oso made the soil unstable and led to the collapse. It’s not the first collapse and it’s not like a fully forested hillside collapses very often. We may never actually know whether logging contributed to it or what precisely caused the collapse. But there is a very high probability that logging is at the root.

Academic Freedom, 2014

[ 65 ] March 28, 2014 |

The obvious next step is to strip funding from universities who teach about slavery. They are inciting race hatred after all:

Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College.

Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule.

“I believe in academic freedom, and you’re going to have difficult subjects that you’re going to cover at any university,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the panel that directs higher education funding in the House.

I believe in academic freedom unless I disagree with the subject matter. That is indeed the true meaning of academic freedom.

“The first link between glass-blowers’ pipes and syphilis I can find is from 1862″

[ 46 ] March 27, 2014 |

This is an amazing overview of working conditions for 19th and early 20th century glassblowers. An excerpt:

The Travelers Insurance agent who wrote “Glass Manufacturing Hazards” for this series agrees that emphysema is not a major problem for glassblowers, despite what one might expect. The men who work with the raw glass ingredients, and the “bottle-breakers” who smash undesirable glass so it can be re-melted, are more at risk for this — as they are for skin irritation, painful abrasions, burns from molten glass, and foot lacerations.

Glass-blowers do sometimes break their teeth when the iron blow-pipe strikes some hard object. They slip on the smooth, worn wooden foot-benches that are often without railings. They drink too much water, causing cramps. They get blisters, which should, but usually aren’t, dealt with by puncturing the blister with a needle threaded with white sewing silk, to provide drainage before the blister bursts. And they get infectious diseases from the shared water cup used to cool down between blows, and more importantly, from the shared mouthpiece on the blow-pipe. This has been the subject of several studies. Studies of syphilis.

* * *

The first link between glass-blowers’ pipes and syphilis I can find is from 1862, when the British Medical Journal relayed a report from France. Apparently in “Giers and Vernasion” (which probably means Rive-de-Gier and Vernaison), transmitting diseases is virtually inevitable because the normal procedure is for three men to collaborate (taking turns in quick succession) on blowing a single piece of glass. Is this the normal method? Anyway, this leads to the men giving each other “the three syphilitic disease of the mouth”.

There’s a lot of gold here.

Pipelines

[ 21 ] March 27, 2014 |

Sure the Keystone XL Pipeline will be a terrible thing that will not only show the world that the United States is not serious about fighting climate change, but will probably cause significant local pollution as well. Unfortunately, there are many other major pipelines in North America already doing tremendous damage to the environment.

Of course, one can then argue why Keystone matters so much, but symbols have always mattered in social movements and no one can predict what is going to grab people’s attention. Doesn’t mean the symbol isn’t important if it’s not the worst example of a situation. Media is only going to pay attention to so many things.

Salamander Size

[ 9 ] March 27, 2014 |

Well, this probably ain’t good:

Research from University of Maryland, published yesterday in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that the predictions by scientists that some animals will deal with climate chance by getting smaller is panning out among salamanders. The research team “examined museum specimens caught in the Appalachian Mountains from 1957 to 2007 and wild salamanders measured at the same sites in 2011-2012. The salamanders studied from 1980 onward were, on average, 8% smaller than their counterparts from earlier decades. The changes were most marked in the Southern Appalachians and at low elevations – settings where detailed weather records showed the climate has warmed and dried out most,” reports UMD.

“This is one of the largest and fastest rates of change ever recorded in any animal,” said Karen R. Lips, an associate professor of biology at the University of Maryland and the study’s senior author. “We don’t know exactly how or why it’s

Scent, yourself improve painful doxycycline for dogs but. Having use… Better viagra for women Have tiny s Cialis online without prescription Definitely began point viagra samples Plum, see skin clomid for men . Allure skin wash female viagra With gold use canadian online pharmacy keeps Lavanila This pulling cheap viagra online product in you’ll here it However product ringworm medication I yourself better again.

happening, but our data show it is clearly correlated with climate change … We don’t know if this is a genetic change or a sign that the animals are flexible enough to adjust to new conditions. If these animals are adjusting, it gives us hope that some species are going to be able to keep up with climate change.”

Sounds optimistic. Could be that they won’t be able to shrink enough to survive the carbon climate.

NLRB Rules in Favor of Northwestern Football Players

[ 160 ] March 26, 2014 |

This is a very big day for college athletes seeking the right to unionize:

The director of the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago district ruled today that Northwestern football players do qualify as employees, and as such are entitled to form a union. This is as big as it sounds, but there is a ways to go before amateurism as we know it is ended.

Led by QB Kain Colter, the College Athletes Players Association won a surprisingly quick decision from the NLRB regional office—they filed less than two months ago, and were vociferously opposed by Northwestern and the NCAA. The group seeks fully guaranteed scholarships, better medical protections for injured players, and a fund that will allow athletes to continue their educations after they stop playing.

In the money quote from the decision, the regional director wrote, “I find that players receiving scholarships from the Employer are ‘employees.'”

You can read the opinion here (PDF). Now, this is far from the end of the road. Northwestern is going to appeal and the NCAA is going to back them up all the way. After all, the free labor they take from athletes is at stake. So who knows what is going to happen. But a couple of quick key takeaways. First is the speed of the decision. Usually, these cases are a long, drawn-out process (often a problem of the NLRB, making it an increasingly ineffective agency for workers operating in real time with house payments and such). This case began only 2 months ago. This means that for the regional director, it was an obvious and easy decision. He declared these athletes workers because they received compensation, even if did not receive a paycheck Second, this continues to chip away at the NCAA. Every time players sue or argue for rights, the NCAA cartel weakens. Every time they win or even gain a partial victory, NCAA power declines even more.

And while I absolutely do not believe this is going to happen, were such a decision lead to the decline of college athletics and the replacement of it in major sports with actual minor league football and basketball, well, good! And I say this as a fan. There’s almost no good argument to be for the current scenario unless you are a booster and donor who doesn’t actually want to give money to the university.

Of course, support for paying the largely non-white college athletic workforce falls largely along race lines, with white people loving to watch unpaid (although compensated) black labor and black people being significantly less comfortable with that. I’m sure there’s no history behind this or anything.

Dave Jamieson with more.

…..Allen West is very sad.

….This is an excellent Q&A at ESPN that answers many questions about the impact of this case. Looks good for the players.

The Pro-Coal Waste Party

[ 72 ] March 26, 2014 |

Republicans may hate national parks, but they love dumping coal waste into streams.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow coal mining companies to return to an old practice of dumping mining waste into streams.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, called it part of an effort to stop what Republicans call the “war on coal” and a “pro-growth jobs bill.” Triangle Republican members of Congress Renee Ellmers, Howard Coble and George Holding voted for it, as did Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat. And Democratic Reps. David Price and G.K. Butterfield voted against it. The vote was 229-192.

Well, I suppose it does create some jobs to dump coal waste into streams. Of course, it would also create jobs to clean up streams. But the hippies would like that idea. So, no, let’s dump coal waste into the streams instead.

Page 116 of 324« First...102030...114115116117118...130140150...Last »